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An “I love you day”

2015-11-02 10:26

My sister Maria once took a shortcut through the local cemetery, her small son in tow. Robert, fascinated by the number and variety of gravestones, asked what they were. Whatever explanation Maria gave opened up a whole new world for Robert. “I didn’t know that heaven is so close”, he declared.

The month of November opens with the feasts of All Saints and All Souls. We might not be feeling very saintly, but we are still included amongst those who have gone before us. Do you remember the old descriptions of “the Church Militant, the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant”? Our teachers explained that those of us who are on earth, battling to do what is right, are the Church Militant, with the triumph of arriving in heaven as our ultimate goal.

True, but what about some of the people around us who are like living saints, succeeding in reaching dazzling heights of holiness in spite of a multitude of problems on the way? What about those of us who take one step forward and two steps backward, stumbling and falling an embarrassing number of times daily?

An elderly lady once tackled St Bonaventure as he left a church after Mass. She complained, “How can I ever learn to love God as much as you?” The great Franciscan saint looked at her, “Mother, anyone can love God more than Bonaventure”.

Perhaps there is not such a great distance after all between the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant?

Perhaps that is why the feast of All Souls follows All Saints so very closely. There’s possibly a good chance that Nanny and Granddad, Uncle Tom and Auntie Joan are already with God. Yet, thinking about it, they weren’t exactly perfect, were they? The thing is that we don’t need to be perfect to reach heaven: we only need to have done the very best that we can to be good. God makes up for everything else. God is a wonderful parent, loving us, not because we say and do the right things all the time, but because we are little and stumbling, falling over but picking ourselves up and starting all over again.

The feast of All Souls is not about the perfect, but about the flawed strugglers whom we knew and loved, whom we miss and wish that we could see and hear them again, even if only for a moment. Perhaps the feast could be re-named as an “I love you day” in our year, a day when we feel especially close to some very special people and take the opportunity to remember them lovingly and to pray for them.

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